Reflections, lessons, and challenges from my Summer 2021 Internship

Some highlights were…

  • My intern project! I designed and built a Dossier, or customer report, a new feature for the product my team works on. This empowered Microsoft executives (including the CEO) with key data to understand customers in a single page and initiate informed conversations for growth.
  • Hosted a workshop for Hackathon week! The organization my team is on has majority engineers and data scientists so I hosted a design thinking workshop for non-designers. It had visibility of 1300+ so it was cool to be able to present about the intersection of something I’m passionate about.
Some pictures taken from Microsoft Teams calls with fellow interns

What changed between this and last internship

  • Last internship: I spent a lot of time broadening myself: setting up coffee chats, attending intern events, learning how to communicate, and digging into a tech stack I had never been exposed to.
  • During the school year: I changed my major to Cognitive Science: Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and learned a lot about human and community-driven design through research and school projects.
  • This internship: I returned to the same team as last year and they paired me with a design-driven development project knowing my major change. I iterated between (1) feature decision-making, (2) UX design, and(3) turning it into code all with engineers and program managers (PM).

Words of wisdom along the way

I always take notes during meetings. Here are some key quotes that I thought offered ideas I hadn’t heard or thought about before:

“A document is never a one-person thing. If one person writes it, it’s an opinion.”

“Before you agree to an ask, always get more information. When you agree, hold people accountable to engage and give feedback.”

“Nobody should go to a meeting by themselves. Always have a second set of ears from your team to listen.”

“Know a lot of things and be humble.”

Reppin’ Microsoft :-)

My discoveries

My manager gave me a lot of project autonomy and flexibility which was empowering and made me feel more like a full-time software engineer.

  1. Maneuvering variable user experience based on stakeholder
  2. Balancing excitement, expectations, and timeline
  3. Discarding the design process
  4. Becoming a better designer through development

Maneuvering variable user experience based on stakeholder

Background: My summer project was a new feature on an existing product so I was working with a team to dial down on requirements.

  • Project source #1: My mentor and manager had business goals that aligned to the employee stakeholders used the tool by submitting tickets and supporting customer representatives. They posed questions like, “how will this feature change the workload of the platform support team?When choosing items to include, is it better to gave 4 well-scoped out items or 6 less-flushed out items? If the target audience is executives, is it responsible to prioritize support for 1% of the users when 99% others still use it?”
  • Project source #2: My PM and skip-level manager had business goals that aligned to the executive stakeholders that conversed with high-profile customer executives. They posed questions like, “when executives view this feature, what story will they be able to extract? Will this summarize the information on the platform so they can see everything in one page? Will executives be able to drive a meeting with a customer using just this feature?”

Balancing excitement, expectations, and timeline

Background: I wanted to exceed expectations while not overpromising what I would deliver. As I made progress on the project, enthusiasm and visibility for the feature grew among the leadership team which was exciting.

Discarding the design process

Background: In school I learned that usually the design process goes somewhat like:

empathize define ideate prototype test build

Conflict: I was both designing and coding the project so my timelines ran in parallel. There was no sequence of the design process — it meshed together.

Becoming a better designer through development

Background: My project was front-end heavy so I would spend a while waiting for code to compile just to see a visual change.

What was difficult

  1. Pair-coding was extremely slow via screen-sharing

What went well

  1. Took action on constructive feedback every week

That’s a wrap!

My reflection doesn’t apply broadly to everyone but I really learned a lot and had a lot to think about. The internship taught me a lot about projects, collaborating with full-time employees, and honed my design and development skills further. I’m glad I was able to overlap a lot of the skills I’ve worked on through my classes into a real project.

My senior year

On a personal note, spending time on experiences is really important and if you can make time to go outside and appreciate a sunset, it’s really nice. Before I graduate I look forward to exploring San Diego, fostering kittens, and taking some recreation classes like surfing and archery. Here’s a reminder to take care of yourself through pictures and music that make me feel alive:

Summer memories

I appreciate

I am grateful for my mentor Michael, my manager Jason, my former mentor Vivien, my team members Ore and Minjing, and the designers and UCSD alumni that made time to chat with me.

Some pictures taken from the first and last time I was on Microsoft campus (November 2019)

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